Action Group releases details of proposed television rating system

Ottawa, May 5, 1997 — The Action Group on Violence on Television, (AGVOT), today outlined its proposals to classify the content of television programs; and to make those classifications available to parents.

The Action Group, an organization representing all elements of the Canadian broadcast, cable and production industries, released details of its submission to the CRTC. AGVOT is recommending a six level rating system that uses consistent and clear guidelines to evaluate the content of television programs. The guidelines centre on violence, but include language and sexual content as well. The content evaluation is assigned a rating according to the generally accepted stages of child development. Parents are already familiar with this approach in classifying movies, books, games, toys and other childrens’ products.

Trina McQueen, chair of AGVOT, and President of the Discovery Channel, said the system is based on extensive research and consultation with parents and with public interest groups. "The classification system will work with the broadcasters’ Code on Violence and the independent compliance mechanism of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, to give Canadian parents the most comprehensive and advanced parental control system in the world," she said.

Research included in-home public opinion studies, focus groups, and a national trial of the system with the V-chip technology in nearly 400 homes in five Canadian cities over five weeks. All studies found high levels of approval by parents.

"Parents were easily able to set appropriate viewing levels for their families with the V-chip technology," said Richard Stursberg, President of The Canadian Cable Television Association. "Eighty four per cent of families found it easy to use."

However, in its report to the CRTC, AGVOT points out that there are issues still to be resolved that make a launch of the V-chip unlikely by the fall program season.

In the interim, Canadian program services will display program ratings on–screen. The CBC, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and the Specialty and Premium Television Association have all agreed to the on–screen display. French language programmers and premium services will continue to use their own established ratings systems for this purpose, as had been agreed to by the CRTC.

"This voluntary move will give parents the benefits of the new classification system by this fall, when the on–screen ratings system will be in place," said Michael McCabe, President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. McCabe noted that all sectors of the industry remain committed to achieving program coding which works with V-chip technology, and that the industry will continue to work through the unresolved issues.

AGVOT chair Trina McQueen noted that, in all studies, families expressed a strong preference for a North American rating system, rather than a system in Canada that is different from the United States.

"The Canadian Television Ratings System is based entirely on what we heard from parents and from child development experts," McQueen said. "But we expect that this system will evolve and change with experience. We present the system as the beginning of a dialogue with viewers."

The Action Group on Violence on Television is a pan–industry organization formed in 1993 to co– ordinate broadcast and cable industry strategies and initiatives to deal with the issue of violence on television. It is chaired by Trina McQueen, President of the Discovery Channel. The Executive Committee includes Michael McCabe, President and CEO, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Richard Stursberg, President, The Canadian Cable Television Association, André Bureau, Chairman and CEO of Astral Broadcasting and, until his recent appointment to the CRTC, Charles Bélanger.

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For More Information:

Trina McQueen
President, Discovery Channel
Chair, Action Group on Violence on Television
Phone: 416–494–8222

Michael McCabe Richard Stursberg
President & CEO President
Canadian Association of Broadcasters Canadian Cable Television Association
Phone: 613–233–4035 Phone: 613–232–2631

André Bureau
Chairman and CEO, Astral Broadcasting
Phone: 514–939–5000

Media Advisory

The following experts in family issues and media literacy have agreed to make themselves available for comment on the AGVOT News Release.

Alan Mirabelli Father John Pungente
Executive Director President, Canadian
Vanier Institute of the Family, Association
Past Chairman, Alliance for of Media Education
Children and Television Organizations (Cameo)
Phone: (613) 228–8500 Phone: (416) 515–0466

Report available on the web at: